Occupational therapy is a healthcare profession centered on enhancing the quality of life for those seeking help to counter conditions and disorders. Those interested in becoming an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) earn an OTA degree so they can help everyone from senior adults to preschoolers. Yes, helping kids be kids is a big part of what occupational therapy assistants do.
Why Are Executive Functioning Skills Essential for Kids?
By earning an OTA degree, you can contribute significantly to a child’s success. Many kids – through no fault of their own – face frustration because they lack specific developmental abilities. As an OTA degree student, you’ll learn some children need more support than others to meet age-appropriate expectations, such as executive functions. Wait, what’s executive functioning? And why is it so important as a foundational skill?
Executive function is a term referring to self-regulation skills and effective mental processes. Children often fall behind in school because they can’t filter out distractions, prioritize tasks, progress toward a goal, or control their emotions or impulses.
One possible sign of underdeveloped executive functioning may be seen in a child’s handwriting. You see, handwriting is a complex task, one requiring processing instructions, recalling information, beginning and organizing the writing process, and physically performing the motor tasks to form letters through the mechanics of grasping a pencil.
Other evidence of such issues may include incomplete homework, losing take-home papers, and forgetting their lunch box.
How OTAs Help to Improve Executive Functioning Skills
In seeking solutions, an occupational therapist assistant works in a close partnership with an occupational therapist (OT). OTAs are the ones carrying out the day-to-day therapy plan, which is always highly personalized.
Students who earn an OTA degree learn how to help children learn and improve their executive functioning skills. To them, the activities an OTA uses will seem more like play than a learning task. Can there be a more personally satisfying profession?
Here are four creative methods OTAs can use to improve executive functioning in children:
1. Project-based Games
Games can be tailored to the interest of the student. If, for example, there’s a love for animals, an OTA might devise a board game of animal pictures. The student selects the animal pictures and cuts them into separate cards, then flips them over. In addition to practicing the multiple steps needed to create the game, the child improves memory and fine-motor skills.
2. Play-like Activities
OTAs might have a child help construct an obstacle course using ordinary objects, which requires him or her to think about the time needed to both set up the course before enjoying it. An OTA could help improve a child’s impulse control by adding instructions such as “no touching things that are blue!”
3. Visual Techniques to Support Daily Routines
OTAs can help improve executive function skills by using a picture schedule for a daily routine. Images serve as reminders for what kids need to do complete an activity or routine. If a child misses a necessary action, a step-by-step sign can serve as a visual cue, allowing the child to see what was missed and self-correct.
4. Taking advantage of Technology
For a child who finds technology motivating, an OTA may use online game-like applications. Some examples:
The Inside Story of Earning an OTA Degree
Although this blog focuses on how those with an OTA degree specifically help children with executive functioning, OTAs help people of all ages reach the goals they want. To learn more about the benefits occupational therapy can provide, check out this blog series on what OTAs do.
Should you decide an OTA degree is right for you, look into the most often chosen college degree for becoming an occupational therapy assistant: the two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant.
According to surveys from working OTAs, more than 81% of OTAs who love working with clients chose the A.A.S. degree. Spending two years in college to join the OTA workforce also results in a competitive salary. Newly certified OTAs typically earn more than $45,000 per year, and the salary for established OTAs ranges from $ 48,219 to $ 65,349 or more.
The Two-year OTA Degree at Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC)
When you see yourself working behind the scenes to help children and adults live a more fulfilling life, consider the accelerated A.A.S. in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program at Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC). The University is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas, a Kansas City metro suburb.
In our OTA degree program, you advance quickly in occupational therapy skills and knowledge through concentrated eight-week courses that sync together all types of learning:
The CUKC occupational therapy assistant degree program was guided in its design by OTA employers, and OTA faculty-instructors have experience doing the work they’re teaching students to perform.
The CUKC program has full accreditation through the American Council of Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). The unique, hands-on field experiences the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) requires happens in facilities within the Kansas City region – there’s no out of town travel to fulfill the fieldwork requirement.